7 arrested in raids after editor's slaying

Crime spree Inquiry: Cops storm Oakland bakery in probe of 3 shooting deaths

San Francisco Chronicle/August 4, 2007
By Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Henry K. Lee, Christopher Heredia and Jaxon Van Derbeken

The son of the late Yusuf Bey was among seven people arrested Friday in predawn police raids on Your Black Muslim Bakery and three homes in connection with three Oakland homicides, including the daylight shooting death of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey.

Yusuf Bey IV hasn't been formally charged with a crime. But police said they had arrested most of the people responsible for killing Bailey, 57, at 14th and Alice streets on Thursday and for the slayings of two other people four days apart in July. Police did not identify the others arrested.

Two unnamed suspects are still at large, police said.

Police say Friday's arrests are linked to an Oakland crime spree that started in December, when a car was riddled with bullets from multiple guns. On May 19, two people were kidnapped, one of whom was robbed and tortured. In July, two people were killed in North Oakland. Guns from those killings and Bailey's slaying were traced back to the December spraying of the car with bullets, said Oakland homicide Lt. Ersie Joyner.

Search warrants were issued Monday, but police said planning began much earlier for the raid, which involved SWAT teams and bomb units from throughout Alameda County.

Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said it was "very disheartening" that Bailey was killed before the warrants could be issued.

Bailey had been investigating the bakery and its businesses as part of a story for the Oakland Post, said Walter Riley, attorney for the newspaper's publisher, Paul Cobb. Bailey, a former Oakland Tribune reporter, was investigating the group's finances, Riley said.

"He was working on a story, and they had agreed not to publish it because they were not able to get confirmation on some details," Riley said Friday.

Jordan said police had no evidence that anything Bailey was working on was related to his slaying. "At no time were we made aware of any problems between Your Black Muslim Bakery and Bailey," Jordan said.

Bey told KTVU on Thursday that speculation that his group was involved was unfair and that he had never met Bailey.

Chauncey Wendell Bailey, the victim's father, said, "It just hurts to lose my son."

Lorna Brown, an Oakland defense attorney who has represented the younger Bey, did not respond to requests for comment Friday. Attempts to reach bakery offices by phone were unsuccessful.

A man who was at the scene when Bailey was slain told The Chronicle on Friday that he was on an AC Transit bus Thursday when he saw a masked man carrying a shotgun approach a man waiting at a bus stop about 10 minutes before Bailey was shot.

The man on the No. 40 bus, the route of which parallels Bailey's path to work, said the gunman raised the weapon to the back of the unsuspecting person at the bus stop but then walked away without firing as the waiting man boarded the bus. The bus stop is at East 14th Street and First Avenue, half a block from Bailey's First Avenue apartment.

The passenger said he also saw Bailey walking toward downtown a few minutes later. It wasn't until much later, when the passenger saw TV news accounts of Bailey's slaying, that he made a connection.

"I had no idea he was after Chauncey," said the passenger, who declined to be identified. "There were five or six people on the bus. I thought, 'That guy is trying to kill somebody.' When I found out Chauncey was shot, I felt so bad."

The passenger said he described the gunman to police later Thursday. "It was so brazen," the passenger said. "This guy was out in broad daylight with a double-barrel shotgun. He wasn't afraid of anything."

Oakland police believe members of the Your Black Muslim Bakery were involved in "cleansing" the area surrounding its business of undesirables, possibly including two men shot and killed last month.

Among the evidence taken during Friday's raids were 100 empty assault-weapon cartridges, according to police. Police believe people at the bakery fired assault weapons in the air, lending a menacing aura to the neighborhood.

"There are residents who live around Your Black Muslim Bakery who are living in fear," Joyner said, noting that witnesses have been reluctant to come forward. "They were using the bakery as a sanctuary, for lack of a better word, where they could not be touched."

After Friday's raid, Alameda County health inspectors shut down the bakery after finding health-code violations, authorities said.

Sources said the July slayings of Michael John Wills Jr., 36, and Odell Roberson Jr., 31, were being investigated as possibly linked to Your Black Muslim Bakery's effort to rid the area of transients. Both were gunned down not far from the bakery.

"This is certainly good news," Wills' mother, Robin Haugen, said Friday of the raids. As for the possible motive that the group was seeking to "cleanse" the neighborhood of undesirables, she said her son - a jazz musician who worked as a cook at Di Bartolo's restaurant on Grand Avenue - would never fit into that category.

"It does seem a little strange - maybe they should get to know the neighborhood before they 'clean it up.' "

The bakery and a related security firm have been under police scrutiny in the past. Several of those arrested Friday also face charges connected to the vandalism of two West Oakland liquor stores in 2005.

The younger Bey's father, Yusuf Bey, died in October 2003 while awaiting trial on charges of raping a minor.

Your Black Muslim Bakery filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, and the case is still pending in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Oakland.

The bakery building, worth an estimated $1.2 million, is listed as an asset in the bankruptcy petition filed last year. The company borrowed $700,000 and wants to refinance or sell the building to pay off its more than $200,000 in back taxes. The federal government has intervened to make sure that the taxes are paid in full.

After his father died, Bey took over management of the bakery and "discovered that income from the bakery had dropped," said the group's bankruptcy filing.

"I admit that I am young and inexperienced in the business world," Bey wrote in a June 29 declaration. "In the past I received advice and consultation from those who had proven to me they did not have my best interest at heart. This was a major learning process, which has now caused me to grow and mature at a rapid rate."

Fayedine Coulter, an Oakland attorney representing the bakery in the bankruptcy case, said she was unaware that Bailey was investigating the group.

"I have never spoken with, nor had any contact with Mr. Bailey," Coulter said. "I am dismayed, as I am sure is everyone in the community at his terrible and unexpected death. No one could have imagined that a journalist would be killed in such a horrible manner in downtown America in broad daylight."

In his filing, Bey also wrote that he met with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, both of whom promised to support him in maintaining the bakery. Dellums "has even pointed out his official support of me continuing in my father's successful pattern of running the business," Bey wrote. Dellums' office said the mayor had no comment. Lee spokesman Nathan Britton said Friday, "Congresswoman Barbara Lee is on record supporting the bakery as a community institution."

Friday's 5 a.m. raid traumatized a household on Aileen Street, as dozens of police smashed through doors and windows to get inside.

A woman at the home said that her 23-year-old daughter worked at the bakery and that her 17-year-old daughter had worked there until three months ago. She said that she had no idea what police were after but that they took away personal papers, her older daughter's computer and all the cell phones in the house.

"I'm a white woman with my mixed-race children, and we're not Muslim," said the woman, who said she was a born-again Christian, as she examined the broken glass on her floors. "I thought they were home invaders coming to kill us."

The bakery had touted employment to those outside their group as a way to stay off the streets and stay out of trouble. But parents whose children had been persuaded to work there were upset with how things turned out.

"They said it would be a good environment for them, to give them jobs so they would not hang out on the street," said the mother of a 16-year-old who was held most of the day. "And then on the third day, the door is being kicked in. He can't go around them anymore."

City's leaders call for meeting

Responding to the killing of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey and other killings, Oakland civic and religious leaders announced a public gathering today to seek information about the slaying and to begin a "community mobilization" against the city's grave homicide problem.

Chronicle staff writers Phillip Matier, Jim Herron Zamora and Kantele Franko contributed to this report.

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